If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to get started on your college applications. Specifically, it’s time to start your College Applications- Common Application, Coalition or College Portal- It’s ESSAY TIME!
If you’re late getting started with college admissions planning, don’t worry because whether you’re just starting to get organized or you’ve been working with a college admissions consultant throughout high school, either way your applications will be completed on time and you will be evaluating your college admissions offers in just a few months. It may both surprise and comfort you to know that this time next summer, you’ll be packing as you get ready to head off to join the class of 2023!
Let’s get you up-to-speed on some important steps in the college admissions and common application process.
How do I begin the college application process?
You are indeed one step ahead having already recognized this is indeed a “process”. The college application process follows a process of introspection about the intended field of study and exploration of several colleges starts now. The process includes the submission of your completed Common or Coalition applications!
Do all colleges use the Common Application?
A very large percentage of undergraduate institutions will require you to submit your application thru the Common Application portal. Many colleges now offer the option to use the Coalition Application. Some private institutions and some state college systems do not utilize either system and/or may provide you with the choice of which portal to submit your application. You’ll find the information you need at the “Admissions” tab on a college’s main home page.
What Colleges — What Major?!!
If you haven’t yet finalized your list of match, safety and reach schools, consider scheduling a thorough Educational and College Admissions Assessment in which together we will discover your passions and identify your strengths and interests to customize the list of undergraduate degree programs where you’ll thrive both academically and socially.
You’re invited to review my earlier blog providing insider tips on researching majors and colleges.
It’s truly important to focus first on discovering the best fit for your intended major area of study rather than selecting institutions simply based on name recognition.
As a former university professor, I have extensive knowledge of university curricula and can discuss some interesting and unusual majors you probably never even considered as well as exploring traditional degree programs.
Familiarize yourself with the distinct application requirements for each college on your list:
Many schools (most certainly more competitive colleges) will require unique supplemental materials. Within the Common Application as well as being detailed on the admissions website of each college, you’ll find an applications checklist. Some of the external supporting materials outside of the application system include: Official High School Transcripts, SAT/ACT, SAT Subject Tests, Teacher Recommendations and Portfolios of Your Work (specific to majors).
Read the application checklist and pay careful attention to deadlines for receipt of all admissions materials. My clients receive guided college application assistance and review, including proprietary customized application deadline management. Ongoing and regular reports to both parents and students ensure there are no missed deadlines!
TIP for SUCCESS! UNIQUE PRESENTATION MATTERS!!
Two of the most important ways in which you’ll distinguish yourself on your college application from your equally qualified peers are your extracurricular activities (including honors and awards earned) and the content of your essay(s). Essays should reveal your strengths, passions and how you connect to others by sharing experiences in a heartfelt and authentic essay.
Recognize that for each college, there are more student applicants than there are available spaces in the freshman class. A very large percentage of students have equivalent academic credentials including the appropriate/recommended high school G.P.A., completion of challenging and relevant honors, AP and AICE classes, strong teacher recommendations and solid test scores.
With acceptance rates in the single digits in the most competitive undergraduate degree programs and your chances of acceptance at state flagship schools hovering at less than 50%, how do you make a difference and receive an acceptance letter?! As a former University Professor and admissions committee member and current Cornell University Alumni interviewer, I have thirty years of experience reviewing undergraduate and graduate admissions applications. I know what it takes to get noticed! Let me guide you to making the most clear and effective presentation of your strengths and unique accomplishments to stand out!
Prepare an Activities Resume!!
It’s extremely important to make the strongest and most clear presentation of your strengths and unique experiences. To prepare for submitting the portion of the common application that details your extracurricular activities (leadership roles, honors and award earned), craft your “activities resume” also known as your “brag sheet”. Not only will this document help you organize your materials for a unique and eye-catching presentation on your common application, but an activities resume is a valuable hot sheet to guide your teachers who will be writing your recommendations. You will also provide your activities resume to the admissions or scholarship representatives if you schedule an interview.
Using your activities resume as a baseline, together we will brainstorm and discuss your experiences both within and outside the classroom to organize your responses for both the common application core essay and any college specific supplemental essays or short answers.
What do I write about in my college admission essay?
DON’T START WRITING JUST YET !!
Before you begin crafting your common application core essay, you’ll want to identify and strategize your responses across the common application core essay and any college specific supplemental essay(s). Organize all required supplemental essays looking for similar questions and those that are unique. You’ll very likely be writing 1-3 unique essays above and beyond the common application core essay. STRATEGIZE!!
The admissions essay is a very critical component of your application as it allows you to distinguish yourself from your competitors and to introduce yourself to the admissions committee. It is how to share and highlight your unique strengths and experiences in a way that your transcript and test scores cannot fully illuminate.
I tell my clients to begin by thinking of experiences that may have brought humor, happiness or even sadness into their lives. The things you remember most are those that shape you – they make you laugh, cry, they are worth sharing because they tell a story that defines you and provides insights about where you want to go with an emphasis on what you hope to achieve during your collegiate experience.
While you will want to demonstrate “informed interest” (see my earlier blog on “Admissions Trends “), you will want to aim to “recycle” your responses wherever possible. For example, writing a college specific supplemental essay focused on discussing what motivated you to pursue engineering or business you’ll likely discuss your inspirational experience at FIRST robotics or DECA. Equally important, you’ll want to include college specific information that elaborates and demonstrates your informed interest in attending a specific institution by referring to genuine thoughts about the undergraduate research opportunities, a specific research institute or some unique aspect of the undergraduate curriculum that inspires you.
Colleges are unique and it’s up to you to have a very solid reason for why you want to attend a specific institution. Do you research as this will increase the likelihood of admissions success and also finding a college that is your best personalized fit. This information needs to be included in your essay and woven into your discussion of the shared experiences noted on the activities portion of your common application.
I look forward to guiding you to organizing your extracurricular activities and together we can confirm your list of colleges and brainstorm topics for your core and supplemental essays. We will work on multiple drafts of your essay to generate a polished essay to best position you for admissions success.
Whether you’re ready to finish your essays and application before the Autumn Equinox or just beginning to research colleges and majors, or perhaps you want to create a customized learning plan to address study habits and time management, I invite you to contact me to schedule your complimentary consultation and learn more about the Educational and College Admissions Consultation services available for rising seniors and all high school students.
Please review recent newsletters (links follow) and then reach out to schedule your Educational & College Planning Year-End Assessment. It is indeed never too early or late to begin taking steps to create and realize your educational goals.
This resource will help sophomore and junior families understand what’s ahead and the connection between cost/financial aid to college choices. For seniors, some insights on negotiating your financial aid offers.
Planning throughout high school will increase your chances of admissions and success as an undergraduate.
Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D. is the founder and principal educational consultant of College Career Consulting, LLC. She has over 30 years of experience as a university faculty member and shares her knowledge, professional resources and support with students who are ready to advance their lifelong educational and career journeys.